Tuesday, July 31, 2007

If you read "A War We Just Might Win" yesterday in The New York Times and felt a glimmer of hope......

I try to keep an open mind. I try to be open to new information. When I read The New York Times op-ed yesterday, "A War We Just Might Win," I confess I felt a glimmer of hope that maybe the situation in Iraq isn't as bad as I've thought it is, and in the long run it will be okay.

The op-ed, by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack who had just returned from an eight day trip to Iraq, included this sunny report: “We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms…. we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.”

Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Kenneth M. Pollack is the director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.

In the op-ed, O’Hanlon and Pollack described themselves as “…two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq….”

Thanks goodness for Glenn Greenwald, who blogs for Salon.com! Yesterday he posted "The really smart, serious, credible Iraq experts O'Hanlon and Pollack," subtitled “The most liberal ‘war hawks,' the Brookings 'scholars' falsely pretend that they were critics of the Iraq strategy to save their own reputations.”

Greenwald focuses on O’Hanlon and exposes him as a liar. So there went my glimmer of hope. If he’s been wrong so often in the past and in addition is attempting to cover up being wrong, why would I believe him now about the prospects in Iraq?

I’m not giving myself a bad time about being misled. Even George Packer, a staff writer for the New Yorker and author of the best seller, Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq, described O’Hanlon and Pollack as having “long been critics of the war,” in his blog yesterday, "O'Hanlon and Pollack on the surge."

(sketch of Glenn Greenwald from his blog, Unclaimed Territory)

Cheney's new defibrillator not working

Tom Toles cartoon in the Washington Post this morning

Monday, July 30, 2007

An American hero needs your help

Last Friday, my friend and political ally, Janie Sheppard, sent me a Daily Kos article, "An American hero needs your help," by diarist dengre.

We both think the American hero, Wendy Doromal, deserves our help. According to the article, “She is an extraordinary woman who has been fighting to extend basic human rights to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) for more than 25 years. Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay and The Pirates of Saipan have spent thousands of hours and piles of cash to stop her. She’s been threatened, slandered, shot at, belittled and ignored.”

The article is well worth reading. If you already know about the organized abuse of guest workers on the CNMI, a US Territory in the Western Pacific some 40 miles North of Guam, but want to know what kind of help Wendy needs, “On August 15th, the House Resources Committee Subcommittee on Insular Affairs will hold a hearing on the CNMI.

"So far the voices of the Workers are not on the schedule. We need to change that. Congress needs to hear their stories.”

Contact the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs and urge that workers be added to the list of witnesses at the August 15th hearing.

Contact information:
1337 Longworth House Office Building
(202) 225-0691 Fax: (202) 225-0521
Staff Director – Tony Babauta
Counsel – Brian Modeste
Clerk – Allison Cowan

Committee Email:
resources.committee@mail.house.gov (Entire Committee)

(photo: guest workers on the CNMI - Global Exchange)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today's "must watch" - Jon Stewart on Alberto Gonzales

I promise you, this Daily Show segment is worth your time.

(cartoon by MR. FISH)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad - human trafficking and shoddy construction

On Friday, I posted Are "corporate slaves" building the U.S. Embassy in Iraq? That evening, I watched the House Oversight and Government Reform hearing which had been held the day before. The testimony of two witnesses, John Owens and Rory Mayberry, was shocking. Both had worked for First Kuwaiti, the main contractor for the construction of the embassy.

Owen’s story wasn’t new. It was reported at CorpWatch.org on October 17, 2006, A U.S. Fortress Rises in Baghdad: Asian Workers Trafficked to Build World's Largest Embassy.

Both Owens and Mayberry testified that each of them had been on a plane headed to Iraq with workers from the Philippines and India who had tickets for Dubai and became extremely upset when they learned they were heading for Iraq against their will. Owens and Mayberry also described the total disregard for the safety of the workers on the job site: in many instances there was no scaffolding, no safety harnesses, and even no shoes!

Equally shocking was the testimony of Karl Demming, a electrical specialist for KBR, who headed the electrical inspection of the “temporary” facilities constructed for the security forces for the embassy. With photos and careful explanations of why wires had melted and that the lack of grounding was a serious safety issue, Demming presented damning facts to the Oversight Committee about the shoddy and unsafe work by First Kuwaiti.

Demming described “counterfeit” wire that was used in the security force facilities; the proper specs were printed on the insulated plastic covering, the wire itself was smaller in diameter by 40% and couldn’t carry the anticipated electrical current.

Your can read the opening statements of all of the witnesses here. It was obvious from the testimony of the first witnesses that our State Department, which is responsible for the construction of the embassy, failed to oversee the project. Disclosure: Since the hearing several hours long, I did not listen to the State Department witnesses who testified later in the hearing.

I think what disturbed me most about this hearing was the incredible hostility toward Owens and Mayberry by two Republican representatives, Tom Davis of Virginia, and Darrell Issa. Both representatives attempted to destroy the credibility of these two eyewitnesses, and Issa accused Mayberry of being “professional whistleblower” because he had previously appeared before the Oversight Committee regarding KBR.

Sidebar: Medea Benjamin, founder of Global Exchange and co-founder of Code Pink was in the audience. Her facial expressions made it clear how distressing she found the testimony. She brightened up by the room with her hot pink outfit, including what looked like a pink crown.

(cartoon by Khalil Bendib, found at CorpWatch.org)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Are "corporate slaves" building the US embassy in Baghdad?

I found this story amazing, even though I shouldn't be surprised at anything that happens as long as President Bush remains in power. If the US officials responsible for the building of our embassy in Iraq don't know what's going on regarding the conditions of those who are doing the construction, they are as shut off from reality as the three moneys who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

Yesterday, McClatchy News reported Abuse of workers building U.S. embassy in Iraq is alleged: “Two former employees of First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting, the company that's building the new $592 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, testified to a House of Representatives panel Thursday that they'd observed abuses of construction workers….

Rory Mayberry, who said he'd been a medic on the site for five days, said First Kuwaiti had asked him to escort 51 Filipino men from Kuwait to Baghdad but not to tell them where they were going. Their tickets showed that they were flying to Dubai, Mayberry said. They screamed protests when they discovered on the flight that they were headed to Baghdad, he said.” [bolding mine]

(picture – SteveMiller4LasVegas.com)

A missed opportunity?

When I received the New Yorker earlier this week, the first thought that popped into my head when I saw the cover was "Did these three women miss an opportunity to learn something about each other?" It looks like they are on a New York City subway, staring straight ahead, lips pursed. Well, at least two of three women have pursed lips; perhaps the woman in the hijab is smilling.

Maybe I, as a resident of a small town in northern California, am clueless about the rules regarding talking on the subway. However, if curiosity doesn't trump rules, how are ever going to learn to get along?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sixty years ago today the CIA was created - has it fulfilled its mission?

This morning, I noted “Today’s Highlights in History” in the New York Times: On July 26, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act, creating the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

If you want to know if the CIA has fulfilled the mission for which it was created, check out Tom Engelhardt’s dispatch posted yesterday, Chalmers Johnson, Agency of Rogues, in which Johnson reviews Tom Weiner’s excellent book, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.

(CIA logo - Grunch.net)

Too good to miss - Tom Toles cartoon in this morning's Washington Post

YouTube phenomenon

I’m not over my fascination with YouTube, not quite yet. I’m still reveling in being able to upload video clips. My efforts are described here. I dream about running around with my camcorder, capturing all sorts of fascinating stuff to upload.

My awareness of its impact on society has increased 100% this week. It’s everywhere, apparently even affecting schoolground fights (see cartoon).

Even Juan Cole, “my” Middle Eastern expert, posted a video clip from the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate at his blog, Informed Comment yesterday morning. Check it out: it has nothing to do with the Middle East.

I received several thoughtful comments to yesterday’s post, YouTube steals the Dem debate...but what about poor and older people? The consensus appears to be that everyone, including those who are most likely to feel disenfranchised, i.e., the poor and elderly people, are better off with this wondrous tool that allows ordinary citizens to be heard.

Yesterday editorial observer Adam Cohen’s column in The New York Times, YouDebate: If Only the Candidates Were as Interesting as the Questioners wrote: “The most striking questions in the YouTube Democratic presidential debate were the ones about sick people. Two brothers from Davenport, Iowa, submitted a video of themselves feeding a parent with Alzheimer’s and asking, “What are you going to do to fight this disease now?” A 36-year-old Long Island woman who said she hoped “to be a future breast cancer survivor” removed a wig to reveal a bald head and asked, “What would you as president do to make low-cost or free preventive medicine available for everybody in this country?

“ What the format did … was make the proceedings more entertaining, and it injected real people into arid public policy debates. In a modest but real way, it worked.

“The debate was certainly more lively than the usual candidate face-off. Not even CNN’s selection of the videos, or the fact that the subject was an election 16 months off, managed to squash all of YouTube’s offbeat charm. If the now-familiar line-up of Democratic candidates is going to provide yet another familiar answer to yet another question about global warming, why not have it asked by a talking snowman?

“…The entertainment value alone made the new format worthwhile. American democracy is going through some rough times. Many ordinary citizens are apathetic, while special interests are drowning the system with campaign contributions and attack ads…”

Cohen’s article concluded with, “…bringing the people into democracy is a healthy thing.” YouTube is doing this. I’d add the suggestion from John of Cincinnati, Ohio, who commented to yesterday’s post, “One of the things we're doing in Cincinnati is attempting to change the nature of the public conversation in a way that's more inclusive. See A Small Group.

(cartoon – TheAge.com)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"YouTube steals Dem debate"...but what about poor and older people?

Ha! Just as I thought: The YouTube - CNN joint effort to involve the public in the Democratic Presidential candidates debate on Monday night catapulted You Tube into national prominence. Coincidentally, that same night I finally learned to upload a video to YouTube after working on it for hours and hours since last February, as described in yesterday’s post, Gritty determination.

1. How do I know that YouTube will now become a household word (if it isn’t already)? Because I saw these headlines yesterday morning:

1. YouTube steals the Dem debate - The medium and the questions are the message in the San Francisco Chronicle.

2. Public Voice Adds Edge to Debate - Democrats Face Questions from Internet Users in Unorthodox Format, in the Washington Post: "Democratic presidential candidates shared the spotlight Monday night with ordinary citizens from around the country in a two-hour debate that featured sharp and sometimes witty video questions and often equally sharp exchanges among the candidates on issues ranging from Iraq and health care to whether any of them can fix a broken political system.

The debate, co-sponsored by CNN and YouTube, underscored the arrival of the Internet as a force in politics. The citizen-interrogators generated the most diverse set of questions in any of the presidential debates to date and challenged the candidates to break out of the rhetoric of their campaign speeches and to address sometimes uncomfortable issues, such as race, gender, religion and their own vulnerabilities.”

How refreshing! But wait a minute. What about and older people? Are they being shut out?

On Monday I also recall reading the Washington Post article, Binary America: Split in Two by A Digital Divide: “Less than a mile and a half from the Citadel, the site of the Democratic presidential debate tonight, sits Cooper River Courts, a public housing project. Forget the Web. Never mind YouTube, the debate's co-sponsor. Here, owning a computer and getting on the Internet (through DSL or cable or Wi-Fi) is a luxury.

‘I am low-income and computers are not low-income,’ says Marcella Morris, sitting on the front step of her apartment building on a sweltering day last week.”

Not only low-income people but older people, who never felt confident enough to use a computer, much less upload to YouTube, are likely to be excluded in the future digitally-empowered campaigns.

So what’s the solution? I think those of us who have entered the electronic era should remind ourselves not to be too enchanted with how easy it now is to be heard. For starters, let’s remember to spend some time working on getting out the vote and volunteering to drive people who need a ride to the polls. I hope you'll share your ideas with me and others by posting a comment on how to make sure everyone is heard and involved in the voting process.

(photo of obviously poor woman and children - this is a classic from the Depression by Dorthea Lange; photo of older people: Phillips Blogs)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gritty detemination

Last night, YouTube and CNN teamed up for the first formal 2008 Presidential candidates’ debate. Over 2,000 questions for the candidates were submitted to YouTube. You can watch the CNN streaming video of the debate here.

I’ve known that YouTube is a force to be reckoned with since the November, 2006 election because I was involved with the Video the Vote effort as a supervising attorney on the National Campaign for Fair Elections national voter protection hotline, 1-866.OUR.VOTE. As calls came in about a problem at a polling site, my job was to alert the Video the Vote crews, who scuttled to the scene, filmed what was going on and uploaded it to YouTube.

When I received a great little camcorder from my older son Jeff for Christmas last year, I was determined to use it to interview people on a variety of political subjects to upload to YouTube.

However, for several months, I’ve been struggling to learn how to upload video clips. Without going into any detail, you can hear from my voice in this ten second test that I filmed last night around midnight that I am full of gritty determination (I know, I know, we “upload” to YouTube, not “post.”). I finally succeeded this morning.

Why am I posting about this?

1. I’ve spent so much time learning to upload video clips that I’ve run out of energy for posting about anything else.

2. I think YouTube is going to play a very important role in politics in the future. The collaboration between YouTube and CNN to cover the Democratic Presidential candidate debates was even covered in China.

3. I want to have the technological skills that allow me to participate in the political process in the future.

Sidebar: I’m having a great time filming my infant twin grandchildren and am delighted that I can now upload to YouTube so other family members who don’t live nearby can see them as they grow.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Visions of Excess

If you flip through the August 2007 issue of Harper's Magazine, you won’t be able to avoid the visual impact of Visions of Excess - Photographs of industrial waste __ six pages of surreal patterns of paper mill aeration ponds, bauxite waste, fertilizer production waste, etc. These striking photos, by J. Henry Fair, are also available at Industrial Scars.

Industrial waste and how it’s being dealt with is a by-product of consumption. On May 11, I posted Chris Jordan captures consumption and included his photo of 420,000 cellphones, which are discarded each day in this country. The impact of manufacturing countless products as well as the disposal of these products is not presenting a pretty picture.

The busier I am, the more I consume. Since most of my busyness is related being a citizen in what feels like a democracy-at-risk, I have to question the trade-off. Do I dash off to a meeting, stopping to buy a prepared meal, triple-wrapped for freshness, or do I stay at home and process the vegetables I’m growing?

The Curtis White articles I linked to in last Friday’s post, The Idols of Environmentalism and The Ecology of Work have made me stop and think about my contribution to the “visions of excess.”

(photo of bauxite waste from aluminum production in Darrow, Louisiana, Visions of Excess)

Sunday, July 22, 2007


A day or so ago I wandered on over to my friend Pat Denino’s blog, Wandering Wonderings, and found this cartoon:

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Heifer International - A refuge from a world of woes

The past few days I have felt overwhelmed by the news. I’m particularly disturbed by what appears to be a coup by the Bush Administration in invoking “Executive Privilege” to forestall any oversight by Congress into any and all activities by members of the Executive Branch. If this is of interest to you, I highly recommend Glenn Greenwald’s Bush's magical shield from criminal prosecution - The administration's latest power of lawbreaking is but a natural extension of its long-held theories and Scott Horton’s A Republic, If You Can Keep It, both posted on July 20.

Fortunately my July/August issue of World Ark, published by Heifer International , arrived yesterday. On January 27, I posted My end run around the government, about my involvement with Heifer International. Today, thanks to the arrival of its bi-monthly magazine, it’s my refuge until I can gather up my energy to keep tilting at Washington windmills.

I hope you’ll take a look at Lester Brown’s article in World Ark, A $93 billion tab we can't afford not to pay about restoring the earth. For more about Lester Brown’s plan to save the environment, check Tod Brilliant’s blog. Tod is tirelessly promoting Lester Brown’s book, Plan B, Version 2.0 (which you can download for free).

Heck, the US is spending $12 billion a month to destroy Iraq and Afghanistan. If eight months of funds were diverted from this destruction to restoring the earth, there would be $96 billion to spend!

Finally, for an uplift, check out the article in World Ark about artist Betty LaDuke, who travels about the world and creates wonderful artwork for Heifer. Then visit her website. I promise you’ll feel better.

(drawing - Betty LaDuke website)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Do environmentalists conspire against their own interests?

Yesterday I came across an interesting essay in the July issue of Harper's Magazine, which prompted me to examine my beliefs and actions as an environmentalist.

The essay, The Idols of Environmentalism, by Curtis White, was originally published in the March/April 2007 issue of Orion Magazine as the first of a two-part series on environmentalism. The second essay, published in the May/June 2007 issue of Orion, is titled The Ecology of Work, subtitled “Environmentalism can’t succeed until it confronts the destructive nature of modern work – and supplants it."

These essays are worth pondering. That’s what I intend to do this weekend. If you, like I, am disturbed by walking into Macy’s and being confronted by a thousand purses/wallets/blouses/shirts, I hope you’ll take time to read these essays.

(artwork by Teun Hocks, presented in conjunction with The Ecology of Work essay)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What the US public believes about al-Qaeda

In response to my recent posts about the National Intelligence Report (NIE) on al-Qaeda growing stronger, I've received a wide variety of responses. Virtually all of the responses convince me that most people in this country don't trust what our government is telling us about al-Qaeda:

1. There is no such thing as al-Qaeda. It is a fabrication. 9/11 was planned and carried out by our "shadow government." I understand that about 30% of the people in this country believe that 9/11 was an inside job.

2. The NIE report is exaggerating the strength of al-Qaeda. Its top leadership has been wiped out. and it doesn't have the ability to wreak damage on the US homeland. My question: What about the rest of the world?

3. The NIE report is accurate, and the Bush cabal got diverted by attacking Iraq, thereby allowing al-Qaeda to reestablish itself. In fact, starting a war with Iraq has made it easier for al-Qaeda to recruit.

I really don't know what is true about al-Qaeda. What I do know is that Bush's and Cheney's incredible need to operate in secrecy, without any oversight, has led to an extraordinary level of distrust in our current administration.
(photo: phxnews.com)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Update on the NIE report that al-Qaeda is stronger than ever

Yesterday I posted Why is al-Qaeda stronger now than it was in 2001?, linking to an hour-long interview by Michael Krasny of four Middle Eastern experts, focusing on the recently released NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) report on the continuing threat from al-Qaeda.

I’ve read most of today’s news articles on this subject and have concluded that the Krasny interview is still the best source of information and opinion on the NIE report.

President Bush keeps saying that we’re fighting them “over there” so we don’t have to fight them here. As one of the experts interviewed by Krasny pointed out, al-Qaeda wants to engage the US in bloody wars closer to its home, i.e., the Middle East. It has succeeded in its goal of drawing us in to Afghanistan and Iraq, at great cost both in US lives and resources. There’s also the possibility that before Bush leaves office, Iran will be attacked.

It feels obscene to ignore the carnage that is taking place in the Middle East, the death and destruction raining down on the residents of the countries we’ve invaded, the death and injuries to coalition soldiers, and the tremendous waste of our resources while boasting that our “homeland” is being kept safe. Is Bush being confronted about this mammoth, gigantic, monumental hypocrisy?

If you want to follow the news on the NIE report, the best one-stop place to go for what the mainstream media (MSM) is saying is Dan Froomkin’s blog, White House Watch, where he’s posted Bush's Osama problem: “Nearly six years after President Bush pledged to capture him "dead or alive," Osama bin Laden is not only still at large, but he and his al-Qaeda organization have apparently benefited greatly from Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

“That's not just me saying so. It's the inevitable conclusion from the declassified summary of a White House intelligence report released to great fanfare yesterday.”

Scroll on down Froomkin’s post to the numerous links to MSM articles.

Then go to Scott Horton’s Newflash from the ministry of fear, where you’ll find this comment: “And yesterday we have the latest assault on reason. The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Al Qaeda is declassified and released in part. The NIE itself is a significant document, and read with some care. It points to the magnitude of the conceptual and tactical failures of the administration’s ‘war on terror’: it has not effectively engaged Al Qaeda. Instead, just as Richard Clarke and other professionals warned at the outset, it has taken the wrong turn at every crossing and has actually served to fan the flames of the Al Qaeda movement. Consequently, approaching six years into the war, Al Qaeda is back and as strong as at the time of its 9/11 attack on America. "

Finally, check out Juan Cole’s post this morning, NIE: Iraq Fueling al-Qaeda Threat to US, which opens with, “Fred Kaplan at Slate points out that it does not take much reading between the lines to conclude that the new National Intelligence Estimate indicates that Bush`s Iraq War has generated a new and deadly threat against the US. In other words, the US had al-Qaeda on the run and would be safer now if it hadn`t invaded Iraq.”

(photo: IntelCenter, on Saturday, July 14, 2007, shows Osama bin Laden in a new videotape posted on a militant Web site by Al-Qaida's media production wing)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why is al-Qaeda stronger now than it was in 2001?

The most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), parts of which were recently released, makes it clear that al-Qaeda is stronger and more organized now than it was in September of 2001.

Today the Washington Post reported Intelligence Report Warns of al-Qaeda's Capabilities, and The New York Times headlined its article, Bush Aides See Failure in Fight with Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Alarming news. But WHY is al-Qaeda stronger and a greater threat to the US after almost six years of Bush’s “global war on terrorism”?

This morning, I listened to Michael Krasny’s (photo) hour-long Forum program on public radio, Intelligence Update, and now I know why al-Qaeda is still a threat. I highly recommend that you either listen to (RealMedia Stream) or download (MP3) the program to listen to later.

The guests were:

Bruce Riedel, former CIA agent and senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East studies at the Brookings Institution.

Fawaz Gerges, Christian A. Johnson chair-holder in International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and visiting professor at the American University in Cairo.

Melvin Goodman, former CIA agent and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy

Peter Bergen, Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation, CNN's terrorism analyst and author of "Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Bin Laden."

(photo of Michael Krasny - from the KQED website)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Update on Siegelman Case

Yesterday I posted Keep your eyes on the Siegleman case. This morning, Scott Horton has posted 44 attorney generals demand inquiry into Siegelman prosecution.

I promise you, following this story will not be boring!

The "toolbox theory" of impeachment

On November 2, 2006, I heard the MOST COMPELLING reason to pursue impeachment. It was presented by John Nichols, (photo) Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine, in conjunction with promoting his book, The Genius of Impeachment - The Founders' Cure for Royalism. I describe the compelling reason as the “toolbox theory of impeachment.”

Thanks to Nichols, I moved from a neutral position regarding impeachment into full gear, organizing and moderating an impeachment forum in my hometown, Healdsburg, on January 10, 2007. This event prompted my first post on January 13.

Since then, I, in conjunction with my friend and politically ally, Janie Sheppard, have posted about impeachment numerous times, in random order, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Frankly speaking, until recently I hadn’t seen enough action by a sufficient number of people to make a difference.

However, I’m finally beginning to see a groundswell of support for impeachment of Bush and Cheney, or Bush, or Cheney individually.

The most persuasive reason I’ve heard for supporting impeachment came from Nichols. Now, you, too, can hear or read it because John Nichols and Bruce Fein were interviewed by Bill Moyers on July 13, Tough Talk on Impeachment (video link and transcript).

Here’s the “toolbox” exchange:

BILL MOYERS: "That struck me about your writings and your book. You say your great-- your great fear is that Bush and Cheney will hand off to their successors a toolbox that they will not avoid using."

JOHN NICHOLS: "Well, let's try a metaphor. Let's say that-- when George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, he used the wood to make a little box. And in that box the president puts his powers. We've taken things out. We've put things in over the years.

"On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any president has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don't give away the tools. They don't give them up. The only way we take tools out of that box is if we sanction George Bush and Dick Cheney now and say the next president cannot govern as these men have."

I’m sure John Nichols won’t mind if you use his toolbox metaphor.

(photo of John Nichols – Wisconsin Book Festival)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Keep your eyes on the Siegelman case

Why, you may be asking, should you be following the Siegelman case? Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman (photo) is in prison, serving a seven year sentence. In my opinion, it is one of the most important cases because:
1. It is a perfect example of political profiling by the Department of Justice;
2. There’s compelling evidence of voting fraud, which the Department of Justice ignored;
3. Karl Rove is involved. See my June 30 post and Scott Horton’s posts, below.

The best source of information about the Siegelman case is found at Scott Horton’s No Comment. On July 13, he posted a lengthy article, Noel Hillman and the Siegelman Case. Additionally, since June 17, Horton has posted about the Siegelman case (in reverse chronological order) here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

1. Political profiling: Horton provides the detail in his July 13 post. While the Siegelman case was being developed, Noel Hillman was head of the Public Integrity Section (PIN) within the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. “His unit had responsibility for the prosecution of elected and appointed public officials at all levels of government—state, federal and local. It also had responsibility for criminal action involving elections officials….

“It seems reasonably clear that one of Rove’s key levers at Justice throughout this period was the Public Integrity Section (PIN). This is both because PIN had responsibility for prosecuting corrupt politicians and because of its key role in the elections process….”

Horton references the study done by Professors Shields and Cragan, which shows that seven cases were opened against Democrats for every one case against a Republican. since Hillman became head of PIN in 2001. The professors conclude, “the current Bush Republican Administration appears to be the first to have engaged in political profiling.”

2. Voting fraud: In his July 13 post, Horton devotes a section to "Election Fraud in Baldwin County" (Alabama). Another “cast of characters” is introduced here, but the bottom line is that in 2002 when Siegelman was running for governor, “…6,000 votes inexplicably shifted from Siegelman’s column to Riley’s [the Republican candidate] due to a 'computer glitch.'" When the results were studied, the conclusion was that there should have been a recount. However, the last resort for supporting Siegelman’s request for a recount was the Department of Justice, and Hillman, in charge of the Public Integrity Section which was responsible for the elections process, did nothing.

3. Karl Rove: Well, what more can I say?

(photo: USA Today)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

We live on a malarious planet

“Malaria now affects more people than ever before. It’s endemic to 106 nations, threatening half the world’s population.”

I’ve been aware that malaria is a serious problem, but wasn’t aware of how incredibly serious it is until I read the July, 2007 National Geographic Magazine article, Bedlam in the Blood - Malaria, including the quote above. It's by Michael Finkel, who managed to avoid getting malaria while doing the story but contracted the disease while traveling in northern Thailand in 2002.

Says Finkel, “We live on a malarious planet. It may not seem that way from the vantage point of a wealthy country, where malaria is sometimes thought of, if it is thought of at all, as a problem that has mostly been solved, like smallpox or polio. In truth, malaria now affects more people than ever before. It's endemic to 106 nations, threatening half the world's population. In recent years, the parasite has grown so entrenched and has developed resistance to so many drugs that the most potent strains can scarcely be controlled. This year malaria will strike up to a half billion people. At least a million will die, most of them under age five, the vast majority living in Africa. That's more than twice the annual toll a generation ago.”

I wonder why we in the U.S., except for Bill and Melinda Gates, pay so little attention to this devastating problem. Finkel answers, “The outcry over this epidemic, until recently, has been muted. Malaria is a plague of the poor, easy to overlook. The most unfortunate fact about malaria, some researchers believe, is that prosperous nations got rid of it. In the meantime, several distinctly unprosperous regions have reached the brink of total malarial collapse, virtually ruled by swarms of buzzing, flying syringes.”

Finkel focuses on Zambia, a landlocked country in south-central Africa. The photos by John Stanmeyer include other continents and countries affected by malaria. If you don’t have time to read the article, take a few minutes to listen to John Stanmeyer, who shares his thoughts on the impact of this deadly disease here. Also, there are several links, all worth checking, available from the homepage for this article.

Here’s my dilemma: the effectiveness of DDT in eradicating malaria. As an environmentalist, I’ve always considered DDT bad, bad, bad. The banning of DDT in the 1970’s is considered the primary reason that the bald eagle population has recovered to the point where it was taken off the endangered species list on June 29, 2007.

On May 27, I blogged about Rachel Carson, in honor of her 100th birthday. Carson is undoubtedly more responsible than any other single person for the banning of DDT in this country. On June 5, 2007, John Tierney, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. wrote Fateful Voice of a Generation Still Drowns Out Real Science (subscription required), in which he blasts Carson: ‘She cited scary figures showing a recent rise in deaths from cancer [from the use of DDT], but she didn’t consider one of the chief causes: fewer people were dying at young ages from other diseases (including the malaria that persisted in the American South until DDT). "

The National Geographic chart, (point and click to enlarge it) makes it clear that stopping the use of DDT between 1996 and 2000 resulted in a spike of deaths from malaria in the three provinces in South Africa which became the case study.

I don’t have an answer to my dilemma about the use of DDT to combat malaria since it didn’t really hit home until last night as I read Bedlam in the Blood - Malaria. Perhaps I’m pinning my hopes on eradicating malaria by using something other than DDT, including the work by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Rolling Back Malaria: New Tools for Fighting a Leading Killer.

(photo of anopheles mosquito – from the National Geographic Magazine – a color-synthesizing scanning electron microscope image by David Scharf)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Do Babies and Blogging mix?

I look back at my blogging and find it "uneven." Perhaps a contributing factor is that I have fallen in love with my youngest grandchildren, Sophia (left) and Rody (right), now five months old. I spend a couple of days with them each week, including a night or two, and sometimes come back home pretty worn out.

I don't think anyone who reads my blog questions my priorities. I don't, but thought it might help explain why some posts appear to be hastily written. For instance, a couple of days ago, I posted about Ted Sorenson's ideal speech for the winning Democratic Presidential candidate. I suggested leaving out Sorenson's rejection of holding our current leaders to account with investigations, indictments and impeachments, but neglected to suggest a sentence or two in support of such actions.

A request: Perhaps you can come up a sentence or two to insert in Sorenson's speech that will show a commitment on the part of the Democratic Presidential winner to expose and punish the scoundrels currently in office for the incredible harm they have done to all of us.

Three blogs to check while I'm away

I’m off kayaking for a few days and like to leave readers with some places to go. In addition to my previous lists, posted here and here, I highly recommend the following:

1. Hullabaloo: There’s an interesting post about this blogger, Digby, by Salon.com’s blogger Joan Walsh, "The hullabaloo over Digby". In a nutshell, no one knew she was a woman until she received an award on behalf of bloggers at the Take Back America 2007 conference. Until Digby’s gender was revealed, she wrote so well that most people thought she was a man! I haven’t been able to find a photo of Digby.

2. Dan Froomkin’s (photo) White House Watch for the Washington Post. Froomkin often asks the questions before others even think of them, i.e., about the importance of Bush’s signing statements. He scours the news and gives you the links to all of the important stories related to any particular issue.

3. In addition to writing the White House Watch, Froomkin is deputy editor of Nieman Watchdog, the blog for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, "...[W]which seeks to encourage more informed reporting by soliciting probing questions from experts." There’s a great link to websites for journalists. It’s up to citizens to hold our journalists accountable, and here are the tools to help us.

(photo: Dan Froomkin from White House Watch)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Speech I Wish the Winner Would Give

The July/August issue of the Washington Monthly features a wonderful speech by Theodore C. Sorenson, titled "The Speech I Wish the Winner Would Give."

Sorenson was John F. Kennedy’s special counsel and advisor. He collaborated with Kennedy on his speeches, which earned Kennedy the reputation as one of American history’s great orators.

The speech, directed to the Democratic Presidential candidates, was wonderful until I came to this paragraph: “During these last several years, our nation has been bitterly divided and deceived by illicit actions in high places, by violations of federal, constitutional, and international law. I do not favor further widening the nation’s wounds, now or next year, through continuous investigations, indictments, and impeachments. I am confident that history will hold these malefactors accountable for their deeds, and the country will move on [bolding mine]."

What???? I had such a visceral reaction to Sorenson’s cavalier dismissal of holding our present leaders to account that I had to ask myself why. Right off the top, this is what I came up with:

1. What would our world be like if there hadn’t been the Nuremberg Trials? Or the Milosevic Trial? The Enron Trial? Even though the wrongdoing in each case isn’t the same, crimes were committed. How is justice addressed if we just let bygones be bygones? Just how will “history hold these malefactors accountable” if their secrets are buried with them?

2. Do we want the same cast of characters responsible for dishonest actions in the past to keep coming back to positions of power in our government? Several characters come to mind, but I’ll just mention Elliot Abrams. Abrams is currently Bush’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy, responsible for advancing Bush's strategy of advancing democracy abroad, even though he was convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra Affair investigation.

With all due respect, Mr. Sorenson, you’ve come up with a great speech, but I hope you’ll remove the offending two sentences before you send it to the Democratic Presidential hopefuls.
(photo- July/August 2007 cover of the Washington Monthly)

Monday, July 09, 2007

If "consistency is the hobgloblin of small minds," what size mind does Bush have?

Bush’s mind is large enough (and apparently roomy enough) to change it about what standards should govern commutations of sentences or pardons.

Yesterday. The New York Times article, For Libby, Bush Seemed to Alter His Texas Policy, by Adam Liptak, exposed Bush’s position on commutations and pardons as the former governor of Texas.

Excerpts: "As governor of Texas, though, Mr. Bush discussed and applied a consistent and narrow standard when deciding whether to issue pardons and commutations. And that standard appears to be at odds with his decision in the Libby case....

"In the six years that George W. Bush was governor of Texas, a state that executes more people than any other, he commuted a single death sentence and allowed 152 executions to go forward. He also pardoned 20 people charged with lesser crimes, said Maria Ramirez, the state’s clemency administrator. That was fewer than any Texas governor since the 1940s....

"In commuting Mr. Libby’s sentence, Mr. Bush said he had found it excessive. If Mr. Bush employed a similar calculus in Texas capital cases, he did not say so. Even in cases involving juvenile offenders and mentally retarded people, Mr. Bush allowed executions to proceed, saying that he was satisfied of the inmates’ guilt and that they had received a fair hearing.

"The United States Supreme Court has since barred the execution of juvenile offenders and mentally retarded people as a violation of the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment....

"Mr. Bush made many of his decisions in Texas based on case summaries prepared by his legal counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, now the attorney general of the United States. The 57 summaries were examined in a 2003 article by Alan Berlow in The Atlantic Monthly. Mr. Berlow found that they were relatively brief, often dwelt on the details of the crime and sometimes omitted information that lawyers for the inmates said was crucial. Mr. Bush apparently rarely reviewed the inmates’ actual clemency petitions.*"

Also, Frank Rich, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, wrote A Profile in Cowardice in which he excoriated Bush for commuting Libby’s sentence. His opening paragraph: “There
was never any question that President Bush would grant amnesty to Scooter Libby, the man who knows too much about the lies told to sell the war in Iraq. The only questions were when, and how, Mr. Bush would buy Mr. Libby’s silence. Now we have the answers, and they’re at least as incriminating as the act itself. They reveal the continued ferocity of a White House cover-up and expose the true character of a commander in chief whose tough-guy shtick can no longer camouflage his fundamental cowardice.”

The article is available by subscription only, but if you Google the title in the next day or two, you’ll probably find the full article.

*Sidebar I: On June 28, I posted about Gonzales’ involvement with clemency petitions when he was counsel to Governor Bush, Alberto Gonzales's push for the death penalty - Why are we so surprised?.

*Sidebar II: Who said "Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds?" Check it out.

(photo of a hobgoblin – Refreshuk)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What's going on in Pakistan?

My longtime favorite Middle Eastern expert, Juan Cole, who blogs daily at Informed Comment, started a group blog, Informed Comment Global Affairs a little over a month ago. Now both of these blogs are on my desktop for easy access.

For those of you who are wondering about the newest developments in Pakistan, this IC Global Affairs July 7 post, The Mosque and the Ballot, is a must-read.

(photo – Lal Masjid dome – IC Global Affairs)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"The U.S. is more hawk than dove and is heading toward vulture status"

Thank goodness for John H. Brown, who e-mails me “PUBLIC DIPLOMACY PRESS AND BLOG REVIEW from USC Public Diplomacy. If I didn’t receive these frequent alerts from Brown, I wouldn’t really what’s going on. For instance, yesterday I received links to 57 articles, and the 4th article was titled Going from Hawk to Dove, by Gretchen Greiner, posted July 3 at Foreign Policy in Focus.

The article opens with this bolded paragraph: “The United States is more hawk than dove and heading toward vulture status, according to the recently launched Global Peace Index (GPI) ranking of 121 countries. Finishing up far back in the pack at No. 96, the United States was deemed less peaceful than Yemen, Cambodia, and Serbia. In particular, America won demerits for the number of prison inmates, size of military, and overseas troop deployments.”

The article includes an explanation of how the GPI is weighted and a suggestion that to move from hawk to dove, the U.S. needs to change its feathers, which Greiner describes as “transfeatheration,” which I find clever and apt.

Greiner gives several examples of transfeatheration, including:

1. “At the level of foreign policy, the Senate Armed Services Committee is currently writing its version of the FY 2008 defense authorization bill and is expected to make appropriations by the end of the summer. Previously, in its version of the bill, the House defeated both an amendment to permit U.S. bases in Iraq as well as an amendment to increase ballistic missile spending. Also, funding for the “Reliable Replacement Warhead,” a dangerous new generation of nuclear weapons programs, was cut by $45 million. Finally, an amendment to investigate the status of Guantanamo Bay detainees passed.

2. “…[T]he House just passed the State Foreign Operations Appropriations bill and sent it to the Senate. The bill provides for greater spending on public diplomacy, $6.5 billion in spending on global health, and modest cuts in foreign military financing. These are incremental steps, to be sure, but they point in the direction of greater diplomacy, dialogue, and development.”

Greiner concludes, “The GPI doesn’t measure these attributes of national policy. But if the U.S. government continues in this direction, not only will it rebuild its reputation in the world, it will no longer rank so embarrassingly low on the Global Peace Index.”

Greiner appears ambivalent, stating that we are moving to "vulture status," then expressing hope that we can rebuild our reputation in the world if we continue to move in the direction indicated by her examples. I understand being ambivalent; I keep waffling on whether or not Bush is likely to attack Iran.

(drawing: Lovig.biz)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Why bother to vote?

Having spent the last four years immersed in voting issues as a citizen activist, I was upset by the dissing of voting that I read in the July 9 New Yorker book review, Fractured Franchise - Are the wrong people voting? by Louis Menand. The reviewed book is The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Politics, by an economist, Bryan Caplan, who is a self-described as “A well-known libertarian/anarchist professor” and, according to my Google search, supports Ayn Rand’s legacy.

I have to ask myself if I’m upset because what I read is largely true and I’m out of touch and have wasted four years of my life and jeopardized my health by caring so much about voting? Or is Caplan just plain wrong or at least partially wrong?

As an economist, Caplan focuses on financial gain as the main motivator for everything we do, and from that standpoint, voting is a waste of time.

From Menaud’s review: “For fifty years, it has been standard to explain voter ignorance in economic terms. Caplan cites Anthony Downs’s ‘An Economic Theory of Democracy’ (1957): 'It is irrational to be politically well-informed because the low returns from data simply do not justify their cost in time and other resources.” In other words, it isn’t worth my while to spend time and energy acquiring information about candidates and issues, because my vote can’t change the outcome. I would not buy a car or a house without doing due diligence, because I pay a price if I make the wrong choice. But if I had voted for the candidate I did not prefer in every Presidential election since I began voting, it would have made no difference to me (or to anyone else). It would have made no difference if I had not voted at all. This doesn’t mean that I won’t vote, or that, when I do vote, I won’t care about the outcome. It only means that I have no incentive to learn more about the candidates or the issues, because the price of my ignorance is essentially zero. According to this economic model, people aren’t ignorant about politics because they’re stupid; they’re ignorant because they’re rational. If everyone doesn’t vote, then the system doesn’t work. But if I don’t vote, the system works just fine. So I find more productive ways to spend my time.'” [bolding mine]

In my humble opinion as a citizen, voter, and with my closely-held belief that there are non-economic reasons for living, I’m wondering why economic terms control. I don’t disagree with Caplan’s point that voters are ignorant, but I’ve found that the reasons aren’t related to the lack of a financial pay-off. My work on public funding of campaigns with the California Clean Money Campaign and on vote counting accuracy with Election Defense Alliance has convinced me that many citizens in this country, unlike the citizens in Scandinavian countries where a very high percentage of people vote, don’t vote because:

1. They aren’t getting accurate information about issues and candidates from the mainstream media or meaningful debates;

2. They don’t feel their vote counts, not because their one vote is meaningless but because they don’t believe elected officials listen to the average voter. Wealthy people and corporations fund their campaigns, so they are listened to;

3. An increasing number of voters wonder if their votes are correctly counted as an increasing percentage of the ballots are counted on secret software with no opportunity for citizens to observe the vote counting process. With 83% of the votes in this country counted by two voting machine vendors with known ties to one party, this is not an unreasonable concern.

(cartoon – newspaper.unsw.edu.au)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Worth noting: Iran in the spotlight

Since I started blogging this past January, I’ve been dithering about whether or not we are likely to attack Iran, posting about it several times a month.

I go back and forth, depending on what I read. Here are some recent posts, which obviously can’t answer that question but are helping me understand what’s going on.

1. Regarding The New York Times July 2 front page article by Michael Gordon titled U.S. Ties Iran to Deadly Iraq Attack, see Jim Lobe’s Judith Miller Redux? posted on July 4. In it, Lobe links to Greg Mitchell’s July 3 Consider the Source: "NYT' Reporter Targets Iran. Mitchell opens with, “As if he hadn't already done enough damage, helping to promote the American invasion of Iraq with deeply flawed articles in The New York Times, Michael R. Gordon is now writing scare stories that offer ammunition for the growing chorus of neo-cons calling for a U.S. strike against Iran.”

2. On July 4, Steve Clemons at The Washington Note posted The Story Behind the Abduction of Britain's 15 Sailors. This is important because it apparently clears up whether or not the real leader of Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (photo) planned or supported the abduction. According to Clemons, “The abduction of the sailors was an operation that was animated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The political fortunes of both have been falling this past year. Ahmadinejad lost key elections in December that not only marked his decline but marked the rise, to some degree, of political forces allied with former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

"The abduction was designed to secure domestic political leverage for Ahmadinejad and the al Quds forces, whose budgets have been stagnant despite the rise of national income from increasing oil prices.

"According to my source, Ayatollah Khamenei was furious when informed of the abduction. Iran nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani reportedly threatened to resign his post if the sailors were not released. And Rafsanjani -- behind the scenes -- "heaped scorn" on Ahmadinejad for the action he and the al Quds force triggered."

This report relates to The New York Times report ( see 1., above) that links Iran, meaning its government, to attacks in Iraq. If the al Quds force is operating in Iraq, it could be operating operating independently and not under Khamenei’s direction. Shouldn't The New York Times be checking this out?

3. Helena Cobban, who blogs at Just World News and is described as an expert in the Middle East along with Juan Cole, who blogs at Informed Comment, posted this on July 2, How likely is a dramatic Bush shift on Iran? She links to an earlier post, A High-Level Iranian Overture, then considers “[T]he likelihood that President George W. Bush might, within the 18 months remaining in his presidency, enact a 'dramatic' shift towards de-escalating the US's currently still high level of tension with Iran.” Cobban puts it above 50% and gives her reasons why. Check them out and see if you agree.

(photo: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from The Washington Note)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Does the President have unlimited power to commute a sentence or to pardon?

I had always understood that the President can commute a sentence or pardon anyone for any reason, but there may be limits.

Dan Froomkin, who blogs for the Washington Post at White House Watch, devoted yesterday’s long post to Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence, available here.
Excerpt: “It's true that the Constitution grants the president unlimited clemency and pardon power. But presidents have generally used that power to show mercy or, in rare cases, make political amends -- not to protect themselves from exposure.
“The Framers, ever sensitive to the need for checks and balances, recognized the potential for abuse of the pardon power. According to a Judiciary Committee report drafted in the aftermath of the Watergate crisis: ‘In the [Constitutional] convention George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to 'pardon crimes which were advised by himself' or, before indictment or conviction, 'to stop inquiry and prevent detection.' James Madison responded:

"[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty. . . .

"Madison went on to [say] contrary to his position in the Philadelphia convention, that the President could be suspended when suspected, and his powers would devolve on the Vice President, who could likewise be suspended until impeached and convicted, if he were also suspected."

Scott Horton, who blogs for Harper’s Magazine at No Comment, added his comments about the President’s powers to relieve a convicted person of his/her sentence to Froomkin’s here. Excerpt: "Certainly the Constitution vests the president with plenary power to pardon, so the wielding of that power is Constitutionally protected. The exception perhaps is quite narrow: what about the case when the power is invoked to protect the president himself from a criminal investigation or potential prosecution. Is it absurd to suspect that this is what’s going on here? It’s premature to draw conclusions, but certainly there are grounds for this suspicion. But to be more precise, the suspicion is that the president is using the pardon power to protect the vice president from a criminal prosecution." [bolding mine]

Sidebar: According to this morning’s New York Times, Bush Rationale on Libby Stirs Legal Debate, quoting former Alabama governor Don Siegelman’s lawyer, Susan James, “The Libby clemency will be the basis for many legal arguments,” James is handling the appeal of the sentence he received last week of 88 months for obstruction of justice and other offenses.

“It’s far more important than if he’d just pardoned Libby,” Ms. James said, as forgiving a given offense as an act of executive grace would have had only political repercussions. “What you’re going to see is people like me quoting President Bush in every pleading that comes across every federal judge’s desk.”

I hope Siegelman succeeds. His recent sentence prompted me to post Where is the outrage?

(Cartoon: Tom Toles, Washington Post – July 4, 2007)

Follow-up to a previous post: Award-winning Washinton Post series about Dick Cheney

On June 25, I posted Cheney under a microscope about the four part series about Vice President Cheney coming out that week in the Washington Post.
The articles haven’t won any awards yet, but I expect them to because they have had a huge impact on our understanding of just who Dick Cheney is and have even prompted a Congressional hearing.

In case you missed them, here they are:
June 25: 'A Different Understanding with the President'
June 26: Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power
June 27: A Strong Push from Backstage
June 28: Leaving No Tracks

The photo of dead fish is related to the Leaving No Tracks article: “Because of Cheney's intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.

“Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks.”

On June 29, one day after Leaving No Tracks was published, it was announced that the House Natural Resources Committee will soon convene an oversight hearing about Dick Cheney's role in the change in Department of Interior policy that led to the Klamath River fish kill of 2002-and to massive die-offs of juvenile salmon and steelhead very year since.

For excellent commentary on the Washington Post series and Cheney, check out the July 9 New Yorker article by Hendrik Hertzberg The Darksider.

Hertzberg describes Cheney as the “…[M]ost most influential public official in the country, not necessarily excluding President Bush, and his influence has been entirely malign. He is pathologically (but purposefully) secretive; treacherous toward colleagues; coldly manipulative of the callow, lazy, and ignorant President he serves; contemptuous of public opinion; and dismissive not only of international law (a fairly standard attitude for conservatives of his stripe) but also of the very idea that the Constitution and laws of the United States, including laws signed by his nominal superior, can be construed to limit the power of the executive to take any action that can plausibly be classified as part of an endless, endlessly expandable ‘war on terror.’”

(photo of Klamath fish kill – Students.Washington.edu)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

On the commutation (not pardon) of Scooter Libby's sentence (and what really worries me)

Juan Cole: Libby was the Small Fish - Bush Really Commuted the Sentences of Rove and Cheney.

Glenn Greenwald: Lewis Libby owes his freedom to our corrupt political elite, subtitled, “The lawbreaking and radicalism of the last six years are the natural byproducts of our Beltway opinion makers”

Scott Horton: Strange Justice for Scooter Libby.

I confess, this morning I’m more concerned about the New York Times and Washington Post articles this morning on Iran’s alleged involvement in the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, here and here, which was addressed in my post, here.

(photo of “Scooter” Libby going "scoot free"– Uncomfirmed Sources)

Is the New York Times leading us to (another) war?

The most important article I read yesterday was by Glenn Greenwald, commenting on the New York Times article, Michael Gordon trains his stenographer weapons on Iran. Late in the day, Greenwald updated his post to report that Gordon's article had been substantially edited, undoubtedly due to Greenwald’s comments.

In yesterday's post, Greenwald refers to a “Camp Victory Press Release,” which is described in a previous post, Our rotted press corps - a division of Camp Victory.

Bottom line: The New York Times is stating as fact what the military is telling it without checking or verifying the information. Greenwald describes Gordon’s article, U.S. Ties Iran to Deadly Iraq Attack, “…[T]he most war-fueling article yet with regard to Iran.”

We’ve been here before. This is what the New York Times did to build public support for attacking Iraq. If Glenn Greenwald and other bloggers continue to challenge the media’s unsubstantiated and unverified reporting of the military’s position that Iran is directly involved in “killing our soldiers” in Iraq, there’s a chance we won’t attack Iran.

Sidebar: Earlier today I posted What do skateboarding and blogging have in common?. I thought I ought to check out on blogging for the reasons I stated in my post, but my friend Janie Sheppard encouraged me to at least point to articles that I find worthwhile.

(photo: The Heretik)

Monday, July 02, 2007

What do skateboarding and blogging have in common?

I love skateboarding and blogging.

Skateboarding: In my thirties, I bought a custom skateboard and blissfully skateboarded most every day for the next twenty years. However, in my fifties as I started to run marathons and participate in triathlons, I decided the price of falling on the concrete and possibly breaking some bones was too high, so I retired my skateboard.

Blogging: In January of this year, I started blogging daily, convinced that people check only if something new and worth reading is posted every day. One of my favorite bloggers, Juan Cole at
Informed Comment, confirmed this in his post yesterday, IC Global Affairs, and is launching a group blog to reduce the pressure of daily posting.

For me, the costs of daily blogging is outweighing the benefits. It’s affecting my health, and I haven’t even been swimming yet this summer.

Unlike skateboarding, I don’t have to give up blogging entirely. I plan to post occasionally and will send you an alert each time I post something if you e-mail me at

Thanks to all of you who have told me you have appreciated my efforts.

(photo: sjsu.edu)

George Bernard Shaw

Inspiration – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

(photo of George Bernard Shaw: ryze.com)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Read Rove's lips

In April, 2006, while the Justice Department and the White House were planning the firings of the US Attorneys, Karl Rove (photo) gave a speech in Washington at the Republican National Lawyers Association convention. He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in the 2008 elections. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. U.S. attorneys in the latter four were among those fired. As reported in the March 23, 2007 article, New U.S. attorneys seem to have partisan records, Rove told the lawyers at the convention, “A lot in American politics is up for grabs."

Yes, a lot in American politics is up grabs. Imagine how much more we could learn about Bush and his cronies if both Congress and the Executive Branch ended up in the Democrats’ hands! And the next appointment to the Supreme Court is made by a Democratic President.

Based on Rove’s track record and by reading his lips, I’ve decided that he is going to do everything he can to affect the outcome of the 2008 election.

Let’s just look at what Rove has done in Alabama, then project that onto the nine states where new U.S. attorneys have been appointed since 2005.

Yesterday I posted Where is the outrage? about the former governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, who this past week headed off to prison for seven years and four months for doing something that happens every single day in the American political environment.

Who gave Siegelman his send-off? According to Scott Horton, in his June 24 post, “…Dana Jill Simpson, a Republican lawyer who previously worked on a campaign against Siegelman, decided to blow the whistle. Her affidavit [a must-read] described William Canary, a legendary figure in the Alabama GOP, bragging that “his girls” would take care of Siegelman. Canary’s wife is Leura Canary, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Alice Martin, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama is a close confidante of Canary’s. He referred repeatedly to “Karl,” assuring that “Karl” had worked things out with the Justice Department in Washington to assure a criminal investigation and prosecution of Siegelman. Canary is a close friend of Karl Rove, and I have documented their long relationship in another post.

Sidebar: According to Horton, After Simpson’s intention to speak became known, her house was burned to the ground, and her car was driven off the road and totaled.

That Rove will go to any lengths to assure that Republicans win is described in Joshua Green’s 2004 Atlantic Monthly article, Karl Rove in a Corner: “…[N]o other example of Rove's extreme tactics that I encountered quite compares to what occurred during another 1994 judicial campaign in Alabama. In that year Harold See first ran for the supreme court, becoming the rare Rove client to lose a close race. His opponent, Mark Kennedy, an incumbent Democratic justice…was no stranger to hardball politics….This August, I had lunch with Kennedy near his office in Montgomery….When his term on the court ended, he chose not to run for re-election. I later learned another reason why. Kennedy had spent years on the bench as a juvenile and family-court judge, during which time he had developed a strong interest in aiding abused children….At the time of the race he had just served a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. One of Rove's signature tactics is to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable. Kennedy was no exception.

“Some of Kennedy's campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one that showed him holding hands with children….some within the See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile….what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take."

(photo: BendingLeft.blogspot.com)